AAA Sacramento River Cats
Top prospects (according the Community Prospect List): None
The River Cats have a solid team, albeit fairly barren on the prospect side. Stephen Vogt, who impressed while filling in for Jaso, will be starting the catching duties. A nice change for him in the A’s system will be that he will focus solely on catching, whereas while he was with the Rays he spent less than half of each season as a catcher. Arnold Leon and Sean Murphy hope to be this year’s AJ Griffin (I still stand by my bold prediction that Sean Murphy make a similar rise that AJ did in 2012! Quote me now and taunt me for it later). Blanton will be rounding out the AAA rotation, hooray! Interesting enough, Paul Smyth is the only player in the River Cats bullpen that was developed by the A’s. That’s not a big deal, since it’s better to have more pitchers in the rotation be developed by the A’s than in the bullpen. Anthony Allioti had a breakout season in Midland last year but had some trouble in his call up to the River Cats. Nate Freiman will try to develop into more than just a platoon 1B/DH. OBP-machine Conner Crumbliss starts out his second season with Sacramento, trying to stick there the whole year this time. Two minor acquisitions, Jake Goebbert who was acquired for Travis Blackley and waiver claim Kent Matthes, will look to prove they have the tools and ability to play above AAA and vie for a backup spot on the major league roster.
Sleeper Prospects (outside of CPL top 15): Sean Murphy, Arnold Leon
Candidates for Promotion (permanent, non-injury temporary fill ins): Sean Murphy, Nate Freiman, Arnold Leon, Steven Vogt.
AA Midland Rockhounds
Top Prospects: Addison Russell (1), Raul Alcantara (3), Billy Burns (6), Max Muncy (9), Miles Head (14).
The Midland Rockhounds have a very solid group of prospects, with potential star Addison Russell leading the way. While Raul Alcantara is the obvious name to watch in the Midland rotation, Drew Granier and Tanner Peters carry some intrigue about them. Twig-like Tanner Peters (6’0 155! Lbs) showed off his quality command, striking out almost a batter an inning while only walking 1.5/9 innings. His home run rate was high at 1.3/9 innings, but whether that was a California League mirage or whether it was just due to his average stuff overall remains to be seen. Drew Granier was second among strikeout leaders in the A’s system, although if he had remained in the Cal League the full year he probably would’ve ranked first. Instead, he was promoted mid-season and faced trouble when his command caught up to him. He worked on integrating his changeup into his arsenal of pitches more, so this year may determine how much he can sustain his success with it and whether or not he can stick in the rotation. The relievers will feature the fastest mover in the system last year, Ryan Dull, who started the season out in low-A Beloit. Between low-A and high-A, he just did not walk anyone (1.1 bb/9 and 1.2 bb/9, respectively) and struck out hitters at a ridiculous rate (12.3/9 at both levels) and will try to prove that the trouble he encountered in Midland and the Arizona Fall League was just a little blip. Seth Frankoff seemed to have found his place in relief after spending a couple years starting in low-A Burlington, the A’s affiliate before last year. Doing the catcher for them will be Beau Taylor, the first position player in the 2011 draft to make it to AA but so far seemingly stalled there offensively while he improves his defense. In the outfield, Billy Burns and Chad Oberacker will be sharing center field duties in the windy and very oddly shaped home ballpark. Addison Russell, what’s there to say about him that hasn’t already been said? The main thing we can hope for from him is that he doesn’t go through the same early season slump and is up in Sacramento by mid-season. Russell’s not the only 2012 positional draftee looking to move quickly through the system, though; Max Muncy comes in the season hoping to prove that his power showcase in the Cal League wasn’t just a mirage.
Sleeper Prospects: Tanner Peters, Ryan Dull
Candidates for Promotion: Addison Russell, Raul Alcanatara, Ryan Dull, Billy Burns, Andrew Werner.
High-A Stockton Ports
Top Prospects: Billy McKinney (2), Daniel Robertson (4), Michael Ynoa (5), Renato Nunez (10), Matt Olson (11), Nolan Sanburn (12)
This team is very prospect heavy with the infield being filled with top 20 prospects, 2013 second rounder Chad Pinder and Bruce Maxwell will be rounding it out. Both Maxwell and Pinder are on MLB.Com’s top 20 list. The infield will look like Maxwell at catcher, Matt Olson at first base, Chad Pinder at second base, Daniel Robertson at shortstop, and Renato Nunez at third base. 2013 third round draftee Ryon Healy will be sharing time at the corner infield positions as well as DH with Nunez and Olson. Look for Nunez and/or Healy to push up to 25 home runs and for Olson to push to 30 with help from a short porch in right field at Banner Island Ballpark, the Ports home park, and the California League playing very hitter friendly. Bobby Crocker had trouble with taking walks last year, and will look to improve on that this year while playing a solid center field. Michael Ynoa, after a mostly healthy season finally, will be moved to the bullpen this year which should help him move quicker through the system. Another player making a move to the bullpen is former hitting prospect and twitter superstar Jeremy Barfield, who had one of the best, if not the best, arms in the outfield in the A’s minor league system. How that arm strength and accuracy will translate to the mound will be fun to watch and follow. This year Nolan Sanburn will try to stay in the rotation the whole year for the first time after being injured for a good portion of last year and being a reliever both years at Arkansas. Another prospect who will look to stay healthy over the course of a full season will be the speedy Aaron Shipman who will share CF duties with McKinney, whom the A’s very aggressively pushed past Beloit. Last year only two high school position players went straight to full season ball: Addison Russell and Courtney Hawkins, things for Hawkins didn’t go quite as well as they did for Russell. Lucky for McKinney, he’s being pushed to a hitter friendly league and he’s skipping over a more pitcher friendly league. Minor league Rule-5 draft pick Tim Atherton, who was taken from the Twins system, was a recent convert to pitching and hopes to stick in the rotation. Seth Streich, a 2012 draftee, looks to keep refining his stuff and command on the mound after being a two way player (a positional player and a pitcher) in college. But overall, seriously, that infield is freaking loaded with prospects. Super…freaking…loaded.
Sleeper Prospects: Bobby Crocker, Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder, Seth Streich
Candidates for Promotion: Michael Ynoa, Renato Nunez, Bobby Crocker, Jeremy Barfield, Tucker Healy
Low-A Beloit Snappers
Top Prospects: Bobby Wahl (7), BJ Boyd (8), Dylan Covey (13)
While Stockton’s infield is stacked with prospects, Beloit’s starting rotation looks like it should be filled, within a few weeks, with all decent or better prospects. Beloit’s starting rotation may be one of the youngest rotations in the Midwest league. It will feature 18 year old Ronald Herrera and four 22 year olds: Dylan Covey, Bobby Wahl, Lou, Trivino and Kyle Finnegan. Kohler, Covey, and Wahl were some of the top pitching prospects out of the 2013 class, with Finnegan the next tier down. Chris Kohler, literally born a day after Herrera, looks to start in Extended Spring Training but only briefly, according to William Seals and Melissa Lockard of Oakland Clubhouse. Ronald Herrera was signed out of Venezuela for just over $22K in 2011 and, between the hitter friendly rookie AZL and pitcher friendly short season NY-Penn League, showed above average command. The question, for me at least, is how much projection he has since he is only listed at 5’10. Since he’s just 18 there may be another inch or two that he can grow. The second part of the projection question is how much he will fill out his frame as well: is he naturally skinny like Tanner Peters or will he be able to add muscle to his frame? Local guy Chris Lamb, from Berkeley, will have a repeat season in Beloit. Sam Bragg made a good impression last year and proved, in a small sample, that he didn’t just have good stuff out of the bullpen, but could pound the strike zone. Covey’s teammate as a Torero, Trevor Bayless, will also start in the bullpen for Beloit. 2013 draftees Tyler Marincov and country strong Ryan Huck will be in the middle of the lineup. Power hitting B.A Vollmuth had trouble figuring out the Cal League last year and will start this year in Beloit. Andy Paz, a Cuban-French catcher signed as an international amateur, will be jumping the NY-Penn League to join the Snappers. He’s just 21 and there’s still some power projection there. BJ Boyd will look to continue his success after doing well in Short Season Vermont. He’ll be splitting time in left and center field, although the majority of center field time will probably go to Herschel "Boog" Powell.
Sleeper Prospects: Ronald Herrera, Kyle Finnegan
Candidates for Promotion: Dylan Covey, Bobby Wahl, Kyle Finnegan, Sam Bragg, BJ Boyd
**All sleeper prospects and mid-season promotion candidates are purely speculation and opinion on my part**